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newt gingrich in iowa Republican Presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich speaks during the Iowa Veterans Presidential Candidate Forum as his wife Callista looks on, December 10. (Photo: AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Election 2012: Where Things Stand

Gingrich ahead in polls with Iowa caucuses, New Hampshire primary less than a month away

By Andrew Liang | null null , null

After months of debates and campaigning, the 2012 Presidential race is about to begin.

In less than one month, voters in Iowa and New Hampshire will head to the polls and cast the first votes of the election. On January 3, Iowa will hold its caucuses. A week later, on January 10, New Hampshire will hold its primary.

The Democratic field for President is set: President Barack Obama is running for re-election with little to no opposition from within his party. On the Republican side, candidates have been battling for their party's nomination since the summer. Beginning in May, Republican candidates have debated more than a dozen times.

A lot has changed in the Republican field since that first debate. Some candidates have suspended their campaigns, while others have clawed their way to be the frontrunner.

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty was an early favorite to capture the nomination. But after a poor showing in the Ames Straw Poll, he became the first major candidate to drop out of the race. Herman Cain, a recent leader of the Republican pack, suspended his campaign earlier this month amid rumors of scandals.

Newt Gingrich has replaced Cain as the Republican frontrunner. At the start of the campaign, the former Speaker of the House struggled to get his message across to voters. But in recent weeks he has surged ahead of his fellow Republicans. A December 10 Gallup poll of likely voters found 33 percent said they could see Gingrich as the most likely Republican nominee. He's also ahead in polls in three out of four early voting states.

The other major Republican candidates are Texas Governor Rick Perry, Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann, Texas Representative Ron Paul, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

The numerous debates have been important to the candidates. The debates allowed them to get their messages out to voters and gave them a way to present their platforms. A candidate's platform is made up of the issues, ideas, and principles a candidate finds most important. A candidate will run on their individual platform, and then at their party's convention a national platform will be adopted.

"The platform that each candidate runs on will ultimately be at their own discretion," Sue Everhart, Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, told the Kids Press Corps. "The Republican Party has long stood as the party of prosperity, freedom, and opportunity. Believing that a 'hand up' is always better than a 'hand out,' the GOP believes that, given the tools to succeed, all Americans can work hard, achieve success, and live the true American dream. The Republican Party is ready to put America back to work, and to return the U.S. economy to the powerful economic engine that it has existed as for many decades."

In this election, most of the attention has been paid to the Republican field. This is partly because President Obama is considered a lock to win the Democratic nomination. But just because the Democrats are not in the spotlight, the party still has to think about its platform for 2012.

"We must get this economy growing faster," Eric Gay, Communications Director of the Georgia Democratic Party, told the Kids Press Corps. "Too many American families are hurting, and the President will be focusing on payroll tax cuts that would help 160 million Americans, extending unemployment benefits and job opportunities to out-of-work citizens, and encouraging businesses to hire by providing tax incentives."

Over the next 11 months, Republicans and Democrats will make their pitch to voters. The Presidential nominees will be set at the party conventions — the GOP convention will be held in Tampa Bay, Florida, on August 27-30; the Democratic convention will be in Charlotte, NC, on September 3-7. The conventions kick off the general election campaign, and voters will head to the polls to pick the President on November 6.

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